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Opening today: The complete guide to making the most of this year’s State Fair of Virginia

Make the most of your visit, learn about the inventive new foods and beer offered this year, catch a free concert, and save a buck or two while you’re at it.



The State Fair of Virginia opens for its 10 day run at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County this morning. There’s plenty to see and do at the annual celebration of Virginia’s most beloved traditions, agriculture, arts, and fun.

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Fair fare–both traditional and wildly inventive

As usual, adventurous eaters will find a wide variety of gastronomical delights at this year’s fair. This year’s highlights include Philly Tots, a Bacon Pretzel Dog, and chocolate-dipped corn on the cob. Visitors can wash down all that tasty goodness with a bacon iced tea or the fair’s signature craft beer, “Virginia Midway.”

For those who like breakfast for dinner, there’s also Breakfast on a Stick—a bacon-wrapped sausage dipped in pancake batter and deep-fried. Or if you’d like something hardier for dinner, try a Country Rib on a Stick.

Other new fare includes Philly Tots, which are deep-fried potato nuggets topped with shredded beef, Swiss cheese and green peppers; strawberry shortcake doughnuts; deep-fried cinnamon buns; crab and blue cheese burgers; s’more cobbler; and sweet quesadillas.

Traditionalists, don’t fear, there will be no shortage of fair food staples, including funnel cakes of every variety—plain, red velvet, pumpkin and fruit-topped. There also will be plenty of corn dogs, Italian sausages, ribbon fries and deep-fried Oreos, Twinkies, cheesecake, candy bars and any number of other things that can be battered and fried–including deep-fried butter. There also will be candied and caramel apples, cotton candy, kettle corn, pork parfaits and a variety of seafood, including gator bites.

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Craft brews to wash it all down

And in a nod to Virginia’s craft breweries, fairgoers can pair their foods with tasty beers including Virginia Midway, an American pale wheat ale from Midnight Brewery; Saison, a farmhouse-style ale from Ardent Craft Ales; Apple cider made with Virginia Granny Smith apples from Bold Rock Hard Cider; Oktoberfest, a classic Munich fest beer from Center of the Universe Brewing Co.; Pony Pasture, a Czech pilsner from Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery; Great Return, a West Coast-style IPA from Hardywood Park Craft Brewery; Vienna Lager from Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company; Grateful, an American pale ale from Starr Hill Brewery; Lil Hellion, a Bavarian lager from Brothers Craft Brewing; and El Guapo, an agave IPA from O’Connor Brewing Co.

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Live music every night, included with admission

The State Fair concert lineup will include country singer/songwriter Granger Smith, featuring Earl Dibbles Jr.; beach music from The Tams; rock classics from the Little River Band and Teaze; and a finale from country rock band Carolina Gold.

Admission to evening concerts is included in the fair’s general admission price. Seating will be festival-style, which means there will be no assigned seats, and visitors are welcome to bring lawn chairs or blankets. Chair rentals and a chair check station will be available as well.

The Little River Band will have you Reminiscing. The Australian rockers sold more than 25 million records with hits like Lonesome Loser and Cool Change. Hear them at 7:00 PM on September 23rd.

Prospect 7 is the first Virginia band in the lineup. A little bit of everything can be expected from this contemporary Christian and alternative blues/rock band that plays both originals and covers. Check them out at 7:00 PM on September 24th.

You can “Sing along, sing along” to Granger Smith’s Backroad Song at 7:00 PM on September 25th. Smith, featuring Earl Dibbles Jr., has performed in 10 countries, on three continents and at the White House. His first national-debut album, Remington, hit store shelves this past spring.

Contemporary Christian Richmond natives Arise Band will take the stage at 7:00 PM on September 26th. The band originated from a ministry worship team dedicated to young adults.

After opening for big industry names like Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride, Trace Adkins, Missy Elliott, Timbaland and J. Cole, Kevin MaC will perform at the fair at 7:00 PM on September 27th. The Virginia singer/songwriter will be performing what he calls his “southern swag” mix of country and hip-hop.

Fairgoers craving a trip back in time to the moves, spandex and hair metal of the ‘80s will want to catch cover band Teaze at 7:00 PM on September 28th. Enjoy hits from Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Poison and many more metal artists.

Virginia bluegrass favorite the Commonwealth Bluegrass Band will perform at at 7:00 PM on September 29th. Known for a mix of traditional and modern bluegrass, it promises an energetic performance.

Fairgoers will have on opportunity on September 30th to enjoy beach music tunes from The Tams, who have scored several hits since the 1960s. Their U.S. Top 40 success came with their single Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy. In the ‘90s, the band recorded and toured with Jimmy Buffett. They’ll perform at 7:00 PM.

Bluegrass fans historically flock to the State Fair’s fiddle and banjo competitions, which will be held October 1st. The fiddle competition will start at 11:00 AM and the banjo competition will start at 2:30 PM.

Later that evening, Richmond-based country band Jackson Ward is sure to excite with its old-school country vibe. Hear the band’s hit single, Goodbye Trouble, along with music from its debut album at 7:00 PM on October 1st.

Carolina Gold will help wrap up the 2016 fair at 7:00 PM on October 2nd with its latest single, “Hurricane,” along with fresh country and rock-n-roll.

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Save a few bucks on all that family fun

Streamlined visits to the State Fair begin with advance tickets, which save fairgoers time and money. Advance tickets can be purchased online and at Walgreens locations around Richmond. The fair Ticket Plaza will feature a new express lane specifically for anyone who has purchased an advance ticket.

Advance tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for youth 5-12 and seniors 60 and older. They can be used any day during the fair. Children 4 and younger will be admitted free.

For families who want to enjoy prime parking, the new combo ticket—good Saturdays and Sundays—includes an up-close parking space and quicker access to all the fun. A limited number of combo tickets will be sold for $25 in advance only and will include one adult admission and parking near Harvest Landing on the north side of state Route 30. Other vehicle occupants must have advance admission tickets as well.

On opening day–Friday, September 23rd–fairgoers who donate five cans of Food Lion branded product will receive a coupon off the $15 adult admission or the $11 youth and senior admission. All donated food will benefit FeedMore.

Rides are not included in fair admission, but visitors can save $5 online and at Walgreens on advance-purchase vouchers for unlimited ride wristbands. Advance wristbands are $20. Richmond-area Food Lion stores are offering coupons good for $5 off the purchase of a weekday Unlimited Ride Wristband, good Monday through Friday.

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Getting there, getting around

The State Fair of Virginia app returns this year, which aims to help fairgoers find their favorite foods and events. The free iPhone- and Android-compatible app is available from the App Store and Google Play.

Visitors also can access daily fair schedules online or pick up a 10 day schedule and map upon arrival at the Ticket Plaza.

“We’ve made every effort to put the kind of information online that fairgoers need when planning a visit,” said Marlene Pierson-Jolliffe, the fair’s executive director. “It’s also important to think about items that will help make your day more enjoyable. Those include comfortable clothes and shoes that take the weather into account, hats and sunscreen—especially important for children—and any personal medications you might need over the course of your day. It’s not a bad idea to have warmer clothing or rain gear in the car, too, just in case. Guests who get a hand stamp will be able to leave the fair to go back to their vehicles, and then re-enter.”

Parking at The Meadow is free, and parking lot trams will be running in Lots A and C to help visitors get to and from their vehicles. Look for tram stops designated with small tents and flags. Fair officials advise guests to note the numbered sign nearest their vehicles so they can find their way back easily.

In the portion of the fair on the north side of state Route 30, customers can use guest service carts to shuttle between designated stops.

Accessibility is also a priority at the fair, because everyone should be able to enjoy the festivities comfortably. Guests will be able to rent wheelchairs, motorized scooters and single and double strollers outside the Ticket Plaza on a first come, first served basis. Chair rentals and a personal chair check station will be available near the Festival Stage, and guests are welcome to bring blankets as well to enjoy musical performances from the lawn outside Meadow Hall.

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Schedule and hours of operation

Ticket plaza and building/exhibit hours will be 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays and Monday through Thursday. Rides will operate for at least one hour after the ticket plaza closes.

General admission includes access to all concerts, performances, exhibits and demonstrations. Ride tickets and single-day unlimited-ride wristbands will be available for purchase at Ride Ticket Booths in the Midway and Kidway areas. Requirements for rides and some attractions include height, weight and whether a child must be accompanied by an adult. Those requirements will be displayed at each ride and attraction, as well as at the Midway Customer Service booth.

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